Curious about how Costa Ricans Celebrate the Holidays? 

In Costa Rica, the holidays encompass the end of November through January 6th, the Day of the Kings.

The season kicks off much like in the US, with decorations. In Costa Rica, those decorations are not complete without each families’ distinctive nativity scenes placed inside and outside their homes.  Families start constructing their portales at the end of November. They can be quite intricate, with some recreating the entire town of Bethlehem. Most, however, display the traditional scene of Jesus Christ’s birth.  They are constructed with moss, sawdust, small trees, figurines, and lights of different colors.  Christmas trees were not traditional in the past but are now accepted as an integral part of the Costa Rican holiday.  Cypress trees are the traditional choice.

Christmas is typically celebrated on the 24th with family and friends. It is centered around food, drink, music, dancing, and socializing.  Tamales are an essential part of the holiday fare, and the tedious preparations usually begin a week before.  Leg of pork is also a traditional entrée served.  The festivities spill into the early morning of the 25th with the well-anticipated gifts exchanged at midnight.

Since children’s school break ends in December, many families choose to travel to the beaches or other preferred destinations throughout Costa Rica after Christmas thru the New Year.  New Year’s Eve is celebrated much the same way as Christmas.  Friends and families unite to enjoy a special meal and enjoy each other’s company.

The Day of Kings on January 6th is recognized but not widely celebrated in Costa Rica.  Historically, this is the day the Maji presented baby Jesus with the gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.  It is mentioned here because the staff at Pura Vida Retreat & Spa DO, indeed commemorate it with gifts and prayers.

See what the Pura Vida Staff will do to celebrate this year.

Katia, Front Desk

On the 24th, her whole family will get together for dinner.  Guests will bring different dishes potluck style and the hosts will provide the main dish of pork leg.  At midnight they will open gifts and play music, dance, and share some cocktails.

For New Year’s, some family members will escape to the beach while others will stay at home and invite family and friends for a barbecue.

Fabiola, Accounting

On the 24th everyone gets together at her parent’s house where they will barbecue. They will play music, dance, sing Karaoke, and just socialize. On New Year’s they will go to another family member’s house or to her parent’s house and have barbecue. 

Mayela, Chef

Mayela makes over 800 tamales to prepare for the holiday season. Some to sell (she has good clients) and many to share!  They decorate the house with lights, the Christmas tree, and the traditional nativity scene.  The family gets together share in the Christmas celebration with a delicious meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, rice, salad and of course the famous tamales.

Eduardo, General Manger

In my family the holidays are different according to each member of the family.  Some stick to more religious traditions whereas others enjoy the more “party” aspect of the season.  Regardless, both decorate their homes according to their beliefs.  However, they all end up at my mother’s house for a Christmas lunch or dinner and share in family time.  It could be the 24th or the 25th, it just depends on everyone’s schedule.  What’s important and cherished is the time together.

Mar y Sol, Therapist

They always go to her parent’s house for Christmas where they share a meal together and her son decorates the tree.  For New Year’s Eve they decide where they want to explore together and many times that includes a trip to the beach!

Yendri, Housekeeping

They decorate the house and put up a tree and on the 24th at midnight, presents are opened.  They get together as a family where pork is enjoyed as the main dish and of course the infamous tamales.

Marilyn, Housekeeping

At the end of November, we put up and decorate the tree, principally it is my son’s happiness to decorate it in addition to decorating the house.  A week before she prepares tamales by herself to share with her family for the 24th.  On the 24th they barbecue, sing, enjoy other’s company and exchange gifts at midnight.  On the 25th they just repeat it.

At Pura Vida Retreat & Spa, guests will enjoy a tranquil stay in December where they can create their own personal traditions.  If they happen to book a stay through the New Year, they will be entertained with a spectacular display of fireworks lighting up Costa Rica’s Central Valley where Pura Vida’s particular location offers fantastic views throughout the property.

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